GAME OF THRONES Recap: “The Lion and the Rose”

     April 13, 2014


Game of Thrones’ most lasting impression may be its changeability.  No show has perhaps ever been so difficult to predict, even for those who have read the books.  The stories go in ways that are unexpected.  It’s what George R. R. Martin does so well: subverting fantasy tropes.  Last week, the theme was transformation, and it looks like it’s going to be a season-long motif.  “The Lion and The Rose” was also about a world in flux, and Game of Thrones continued to prove that it has the ability to change things up like no one else.  Hit the jump for more on “the dwarf, the cripple, and the mother of madness.”

game-of-thrones-recapSo for those of you who weren’t expecting it, let me welcome you to the “Purple” Wedding (the color Joffrey turns as he chokes).  It’s the balance to the Red Wedding, and it’s essentially the last good thing that happens in this series, so enjoy it while you can (that’s not exactly true but, it’s probably the most damn satisfying).  “The Lion and The Rose” played it all out beautifully, too, taking time to show Joffrey off as the despicable little shit he is in so many ways that if someone on the show didn’t go ahead and kill him, one of us was bound to.

Looking back to last week, I may not have given the premiere episode a fair shake.  True I didn’t love it, and thought it was too focused on exposition (“The Lion and The Rose” showed how fantastic a focused episode can be), but I also woke up Sunday night and thought, “transformation!”  It was literally laid out in the first few seconds in the cold open with Tywin and the swords.  It happens, I missed it, I apologize.  It didn’t make me like the episode any more, but it did make me respect it.  And it also completely blew my theory that this was going to be a season of waiting.  Nope, it’s going to be explosion after narrative explosion.

To hit viewers with the Purple Wedding so soon in the season is a brilliant stroke, and falls in line again with this theme of changeability.  No one in Westeros (or across the Narrow Sea) is safe, and no one is power stays there for long.  Joffrey dying such a vicious death is not only emotionally satisfying, it also throws the power structure in King’s Landing off totally.  Now things are open again.  There are many other kings (and queens) looking to take Joffrey’s place.

game-of-thrones-recapNaturally, there’s the question of “whodunnit”?  In many ways, it doesn’t matter.  Though Cersei points the finger at a poor, beleaguered Tyrion, it’s clear that essentially everyone at that head table had motivation.  The Queen of Thorns, Margaery, Sansa, Oberyn Martell and yes, Tyrion, and just about anyone else, or those who could have been hired, or just about anyone.  But … who cares right now?  The King is Dead!

The transformation theme played out in the other POVs as well, the ones that were ignored last week.  (All of them were very strong, too).  Ramsay transformed Theon into “Reek,” his faithful servant (in an elaborate show of loyalty, he has Theon shave his neck while he tells him Robb is dead, why, and how.  Theon’s loyalty does not waiver).  Ramsay is also transforming himself into a legitimate heir for Roose, who dismisses him as his bastard, but later sees him with new eyes.  Ramsay is batshit crazy, yes, but he gets good results from his methods (like unearthing the fact that Bran and Rickon are alive).

Jaime is transforming into a left-handed swordsman, fighting to establish his identity thanks to his new one-handed reality.  And Bran is literally transforming into Summer — at least, borrowing his brain to run around in and eat while he remains immobile and hungry in his human form.  His connecting with the Heart Tree though, which mixed memories with visions, is a reminder of the show’s supernatural angles, and how much we still don’t know about the mythology of the world (how much left there is to uncover, that is).  The trees seem to have powers, but so does Melisandre’s Lord of Light.  Is there one way?  Or like the fight for the Iron Throne, are the gods at war as well?

Focusing on only a handful of POVs allowed for some great character development, like an expanded look into Stannis’  family, as well as Tyrion’s painful parting (or attempt at parting) from Shae.  Though the hour belonged to Joffrey and his demise, “The Lion and The Rose” was a nicely balanced episode that incorporated plenty of humor, and wasn’t afraid to slow down and spend time on characterization (while still hitting a dizzying number of plot points).  It was Game of Thrones at its best.

Episode Rating: A+

game-of-thrones-recapMusings and Miscellanea:

— I’d forgotten about Roose marrying the heavy Frey girl, because Walder was paying off suitors by the weight of each daughter … hilarious.

— Great scene with Bronn and Jaime, where Bronn (of course) shows him no mercy in their training.

— “No one weeps for spiders.  Or whores” – Varys.

— If you were anticipating Joffrey’s death, the show really dangled it in front of us, didn’t it?  If you weren’t expecting it, go back and look at all of the foreshadowing.  Ridiculous.

— Who do you think poisoned Joffrey?

— Cersei undoing Margaery’s good will by instructing Pycelle to give the food to the dogs, not the poor … typical.

— Joffrey hacking up Tyrion’s history book of kings with his new sword was great, but nothing could outdo the pantomime by the little people, and then his continual humiliation of Tyrion during and after that (and Sansa being traumatized).

— Margaery’s hairdo looked like Marg Simpson’s.

— Olenna slayed her few scenes, like when she shut down her son Mace while she was talking to Tywin.  There was some talk of how extravagant the wedding was, and how costly the war.  This will probably start to matter soon.

— Vomit, vomit everywhere and Pycelle telling the young girl he would “exam her personally” … shudder.

— Very nice little scenes where Jaime tries to ward off Loras from marrying Cersei, and Cersei calls out Brienne for being in love with Jaime.  So much drama!

— “There’s been too much amusement here today!” – Joffrey.

— Pro-tip: if you going to get married in Westeros (and I wouldn’t), don’t let anyone play “The Rains of Castamere” during it.